Adding to the surprisingly long list of game characters who have a drinking vessel for a head (thanks, Cuphead), we bring you Flaskoman! Part robot, part… um… flask, he was created to ferry combustible liquids from one place to another by an evil scientist. And now he’s participating in GlaDOS-like trials for your amusement. It’s probably not the life that a newborn receptacle had in mind.
Flaskoman is a puzzle platformer from Flying Islands, yet it feels like a Ratalaika or Eastasiasoft platformer, in that it’s cheap (only £4.19), short (thirty-two levels total, and just over an hour’s play) and shovels achievements into your flask-head like there’s no tomorrow. After level 10 you will have 1000G, and – for a few purchasers – this will be the sign to delete it from the hard drive. But it deserves slightly more than that.
You are the titular Flaskoman, and your job is to get to an open door at the end of the level. But the door is most commonly blocked by coloured gates, and those coloured gates are opened by coloured levers, and those coloured levers are powered by coloured power sources, and – would you believe it? – you need to ferry coloured liquids to those power sources to start the whole chain off.
Flaskoman is not what you would call original. We’ve been carrying coloured keys to coloured doors since the Spectrum days, and it’s no different here. Well, slightly different, in that you’re carrying things in your head rather than in your hands.
The levels aren’t spectacular. Of the thirty-two, a handful are tutorialising mechanics, so are dirt simple. Another handful are Gaming 101: you’ve probably played the same, exact puzzles in countless other puzzle platformers.
But another handful are more interesting, as Flaskoman dabbles with power-ups. Over the course of play, you unlock the ability to ‘use’ the liquids, rather than just ferry them about. The red liquid can be expended to make a Hadouken-like fireball. The blue liquid does a dash-jump, and the purple liquid a double-jump. Individually these are common as muck, but they introduce a reasonably interesting question: do you use the liquid as a power-up, or do you use it to power the level? Using it as a power-up exhausts it, so you better get it right, otherwise you are hammering the Y reset button.
Some of the latter levels, when multiple power-ups are available, hit a sweet spot. We untangled them and got a satisfying level completion screen. We shouldn’t go overboard, though: we’re not exactly talking Turing Test-levels of complexity or Cuphead-degrees of difficulty. The levels are no more than three or four obstacles and they don’t take up much more than the game screen. But they are appropriately fun and challenging, and we liked them enough to write about them.
They also look half-decent. Flaskoman might love brown more than any sane person does, but the levels have a steampunky feel, and the constantly watching scientist, looming in the background, adds a nice tension. Flaskoman himself also carries a lot of charm around in that empty head, particularly as he leaps around with the game’s keys sloshing about in his noggin.
Outside of the game’s length, which is on the shorter side, there are a couple of criticisms to take note of. There’s a latency to Flaskoman’s jump that is notable. We wondered if there was something wrong with our telly, our pad or our internet, as the delay was longer than we’re used to, but trying it out on a second Xbox showed the problem was with Flaskoman. It’s a sizable issue, and timing-based jumps, particularly in the latter levels, become painful. In Flaskoman’s defence, the levels are never long-enough to make it a pad-chucking issue, but it still should have been resolved.
The second problem is locked to the last level. Flaskoman decides to mix things up at the end, and it’s here that the latency becomes an issue. The level is longer and more fiendish, and – oh my, there’s a special place in hell for this – it has an unskippable cutscene and opening sequence that means failure is more punishing than it should be. We’re not completely convinced that we would have persisted to the end, if it wasn’t for the review.
Flaskoman is a middle-of-the-road puzzle-platformer. There’s a curious charm to the little buckethead, and its liquid-carrying gimmick lends itself to some good moments, but those are often upended by some languid jumping latency. It does exactly what it says on the flask: it gives you an hour or two of minorly challenging puzzles, and only charges you £4.19 for the privilege.
You can buy Flaskoman for £4.19 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S